After pushing the button for the third floor, I lean back
against the wall of the elevator, turning this evening's events over in my mind.
Dinner with Alex was great. We went to the diner close to campus and talked
through dinner and for an hour over coffee after that. She is so eager; she
wants to know everything about sentinels. And her visions, her dreams, are
incredible. Vivid, detailed--she drew one of the pictograms from the temple for
me on a napkin. I've learned so much from her already, and I haven't taught her
But that will change tomorrow. She's going to meet me on campus and we're going to work on figuring out why she gets headaches when she tries to extend her senses. The elevator stops at my floor, and I get off, feeling the grin I've been wearing all evening cross my face again.
Unlocking the door to the loft, my world turns upside down. Large packing boxes cover the floor, their contents poking through the open tops. Jim's standing in the midst of them, a roll of tape in his hand. "Hey, Jim. What's up?" I ask hesitantly, dread squeezing my insides.
His gaze moves nervously around the loft. "It's just getting a little too claustrophobic around here for me, Chief." His eyes meet mine for a second, then dart away again. "I'm sorry."
"Wait a minute, Jim…" I peer down at the nearest box and my heart stops. "This is all my stuff. What's going on?" I ask in a strangled whisper.
"I just need a little space. I feel like the walls are closing in."
I take a step toward him, trying to find my voice. "Are you kicking me out?"
Jim can't meet my eyes. "I can't have anybody here right now," he answers sharply.
His tone pisses me off. This is my home, too. He can't just throw me out. Enough is enough; I'm not going to let him shut me out any longer. This has got to be related to his recent strange behavior. "Hey, wait a minute," I snap. "Jim, we've just got to sit down and talk about what's going on with you."
He shakes his head as he approaches me. "I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to analyze it. I just need you out of here by the time I get back." Brushing past me, he grabs his coat and stalks out the door.
I'm left standing amid the boxes, wondering what in the hell I did to deserve this.
Running both hands through my hair in frustration, I set my backpack down on the floor and approach my room. If I thought the boxes were the worst of it, I was wrong. The sheer destruction is like a fist in my gut. Drawers are pulled out, the contents spilled over the floor. The clothing from my closet forms a pile in the middle of the room. Sheets have been torn from the bed, and books, artifacts, photos, hell, even the shelves, have been yanked off the walls.
A sob catches in my chest and I fight back tears. What is the meaning of this? What did I do? Forcing back my anger and fear, I grab a box and start throwing stuff into it.
I don't know what in the hell is going on with Jim, but judging by the state of my room, maybe leaving is a good idea.
I'm waiting right where Blair told me, Rainier's rose gardens,
when he finally shows up for our appointment. I gave Carl an excuse I know he
didn't believe to be here this morning, and Blair has the audacity to be late.
For a split second, I want to yell at him, to say that even though I'm the one
who needs help, my time is valuable too, damn it. Then I see the dark circles
under his eyes and the slump in his shoulders, and I bite my tongue.
"I'm late, I know," he starts to say when his words are interrupted by a yawn. "Excuse me. I'm sorry." We start to walk down one of the garden paths. "My roommate freaked out last night and kicked me out. I spent the night in a motel. It's no biggie, though."
He shrugs it off, scrubbing his hand over his bleary eyes, but I can tell it's upset him. "You're kidding me," I say.
Blair shakes his head. "No, I'm totally serious."
"Do you need someplace to stay for a few days? I can clear the junk out of my spare bedroom, let you crash there." Where the hell did that come from? Carl will have a fit if he finds out someone's living with me. I feel that unexplainable ache again, that need I'm quickly coming to associate with Blair. For some reason, it makes me want to protect him, to take care of him.
"I'm fine, really, Alex, but thanks for the offer. And it wasn't all bad, in that time I was able to develop a theory about your headaches. Now, your central nervous system isn't used to so much stimulation. So, when your senses go on high, your nerve endings get overloaded and it creates sort of a pain-inducing sensory spasm."
I stop walking to look at him. "So, how do I stop it?"
Chewing his lip, Blair glances around the gardens. "Well, you see those daffodils over there? I want you to concentrate on smelling them, and if you start to get a headache, just really focus in on the scent. Really concentrate on smelling the flowers and nothing else."
I close my eyes, inhaling slowly. It takes a moment, but…"Mmm…they smell incredible."
"Good. Good. Good," he encourages me.
I take another breath, and it's like an ice pick stabbing into my brain. "Oh…"
"All right, Alex, just concentrate," Blair coaches. "Concentrate. Focus in on the smell."
I shake my head, opening my eyes. "I can't. Sorry. I tried. It just hurts too much."
He touches me, rubbing my shoulder, and the pain fades. "It's all right. It'll take a little practice, but we'll get it. It'll be good." He starts to walk back toward the university buildings, his hand going to the small of my back. "Come on. I've got some other exercises we can do."
I go with him, turning what just happened over in my mind. Blair touched me, and my head didn't hurt anymore. I inhale experimentally, searching again for the scent of daffodils. I find it easily, and hold onto it all the way to Blair's office--with no pain.
Walking into the bullpen after lunch, I find Megan sitting at my
desk, talking on the phone. She hangs up the receiver and looks up at me.
"That was the FBI. All of the ex-Oberon employees checked out clean."
I barely hear her--I'm too busy trying to get a handle on the sudden rage I feel brewing inside me. "Connor, why are you at my desk?" I snap.
She blinks at me in confusion, then says, "My phone was out, and I just thought since we're working the same case--"
"Yeah, well you thought wrong. Look, could you please--" Getting to her feet, she walks off, her back stiff, as my gaze settles on a file folder sitting on the edge of my desk. I know I didn't leave it there. My folders are all neatly stacked in my in box. Picking it up, I wave it at the room. "What is this? What? Brown? Brown, now please do not use my desk as a filing cabinet." Tossing it at him, I clap my hands to get everyone's attention.
"Could you listen up, please? Everybody, that is my desk. I do not want you to put anything on it, or take anything from it. Are we clear?" My announcement is met by confused gazes. "What is this, kindergarten? Hello! Are you listening to me?"
Simon's voice booms out, "Jim!"
I whirl around to face him, my hands clenched into fists. "Yes!"
"Could I have a word with you, please?"
I have to walk past Connor's desk to get to the office. "Don't touch my stuff while I'm gone," I hiss. "I'll know if you did."
I can hear her muttering "Bloody bonkers," as the door shuts behind me.
"Sit down, Jim," Simon says.
Shaking my head, I answer, "No, thank you, sir. I'll stand. I can see my desk better that way."
Simon simply stares at me, then states, "Go home, Jim, take the rest of the day off. I think you came back to work too soon."
"I'm fine, Simon. It's everyone else. How can I do my job if people keep messing with my stuff?"
"That's an order, Jim. Go home, talk things over with Sandburg, find out what's going on with you." He points toward the door.
"But, Captain, I'm--"
Shrugging, I do as I'm ordered. It's not until I'm in the truck that I realize Blair doesn't live at the loft anymore.
Megan stops by just as I'm ready to leave my office for the
evening, and I find myself dumping my problems on her before she even has a
chance to take her coat off. "…and when I came home last night, all my stuff was
packed up. I tried to talk to him, but then he just walked out of the
She nods sympathetically. "Simon sent him home today."
Sent Jim home? What does that mean? "You're kidding me--for what?"
"He threw a tantie in the bullpen about people touching his things. Told me I couldn't sit at his desk. We've had a blew or two before, but this…" Her voice trails off and then she suddenly switches subjects. "Sandy, how did an anthropologist get hooked up with a detective?"
Great. I've got enough problems without trying to tap dance around the sentinel thing with her again. "Uh, well, that's a long story, Megan." And I'm more interested in what's going on with Jim. The thing at the PD has to be connected to him throwing me out.
She gives me a smile. "One day, I'll get the good oil. We'll have to coerce a confession from you."
Apparently frustrated by my refusal to elaborate on how Jim and I met, Megan changes the subject back to Jim's actions of the past few days.. "I don't know Jim well, but his behavior's obviously changed."
"Well, if you're asking me what's wrong with him, Megan, I don't have all the answers." Especially since he doesn't seem to want me anywhere near his personal space.
"I think we should talk to him. Between the two of us, I'm sure we can get to the bottom of this." Getting to her feet, she starts out of the office.
"Uh, Megan, wait up," I call after her, grabbing my coat. Just what I really don't want to do, confront Jim while I'm still trying to deal with getting kicked out. I should probably let Megan do all the talking, or I'm sure I'll say something I'll regret.
When we reach the loft, Megan is still determined to have things
out with Jim. She doesn't bother to knock, just barges right through the
unlocked front door. I follow her into the apartment a bit more slowly. I don't
want to be here; memories of yesterday are still too strong.
It's dark inside, the only illumination coming from the skylights and the balcony doors. Even without lights, I can see the loft is completely bare. All the furniture, rugs, shelves, everything is gone.
I flip the light switch next to the front door. Nothing happens. "Circuit's dead. What is going on?" Megan shrugs.
"What do you want?" Jim's voice echoes in the open space. I can see him on the balcony, silhouetted in the doorway.
I take a step toward him as I ask, "Hey, Jim, where is everything, man?"
His words are flat, unemotional. "I put it in the basement. Too many distractions. The place was way too cluttered."
I didn't think I could feel any worse than I did yesterday, packing my stuff in boxes, knowing I was no longer wanted. Now I'm not even a person to Jim, I'm clutter.
Megan gives it a try. "It's freezing in here. Aren't you cold?"
Ignoring her, Jim turns back to staring into the night. "Something's going on out there--something very wrong. I've never felt anything like this before."
Never mind what's wrong outside. There's something very wrong with you, Jim. "Hey, Jim, what do you say you come inside, man?" I have to talk to him, I have to find out why this is happening to him, to me, to us.
He cocks his head toward the city, listening. I strain to hear it too, but it's not until several seconds later the wail of sirens becomes audible to me.
"Sirens…" Jim intones ominously. Brushing past Megan and me, he exits the loft, leaving the two of us staring at each other.
"This is weird," Megan finally says. "Sandy, let's go."
I follow her out, more confused and hurt than ever.
Jumping into my SUV, I speed out of the tunnel, elation bubbling
inside me. Carl can't find fault with me for this job--it went off with out a
hitch. A spike strip under the overpass brought the delivery van to a halt, the
gas bombs knocked out the driver, and swiping the laser from the back of the van
was a piece of cake.
"Just like clockwork," I say out loud, "and not a bit of trouble with my senses." No one got hurt either, unlike the Oberon job.
I'm turning off Madison onto Lincoln when I hear them. Sirens! Shit. I can't believe this! When am I going to get a damn break in this town? With a squeal of tires, I turn down an alley and head for one of Cascade's industrial parks. There's plenty of places to hide there…along with my backup vehicle.
"This is David-152 responding," I say into the mike as I rush
into the night. "Proceeding south on Lincoln to Dearborne. Will try to catch him
before he turns off Lincoln." This is it, I can feel it. If I can just catch
this guy, all the craziness will stop, this insane crawling under my skin will
A dark blue SUV skids around the turn in front of me, and my vision zooms in on the license plate. The partial plate number matches. "This is David-152. I'm in pursuit of suspect vehicle."
Several squad cars fall in behind me. We tail the speeding SUV through the tangle of warehouses and alleyways of the waterfront factory area. The truck disappears behind a building for a second. When I come around the corner, I find it abandoned, engine still running.
Jumping out of my truck, I glance around. Movement on the fire stairs of the closest warehouse catches my eye. A hooded, black-clad figure is sprinting up them. "Let's go! Come on!" I yell at the patrol officers. "I want you guys to head around back. Look alive. Keep your eyes open. I want you two to stay here in case he doubles back."
I head for the stairs, hearing another car pull up behind me and Connor's voice as she yells for a torch. Then I block everything out to concentrate on the suspect.
Damn it! They're close, too close! I dart up the external stairs
to the warehouse, pausing on the landing as pain explodes inside my head. Not
now, not now! Doubling over, I'm struggling to get the door open when I hear
Blair's voice in my head. Now, just concentrate. Block out everything else.
Good. The pain begins to fade.
"Freeze! Cascade P.D!" a voice yells from below.
A glance down shows a man on the ground pointing a gun at me. A flashlight beam flickers in the darkness, illuminating his face. It's the man I saw outside Blair's office at the university. Wincing, he throws his arm up over his eyes. "Get that flashlight out of my eyes! Sandburg! Idiot!"
Blair's here? I catch a glimpse of the longhaired student running up to the man with the gun. What is going on? But I don't have time to investigate further if I want to escape. Slipping inside the warehouse, I go down the stairs on the inside. I lift a grate in the floor and drop into the steam tunnel that runs underneath these factories like a rabbit warren.
A few minutes later, I'm a quarter mile away, and climbing into my get away vehicle. Still shaking, I drive toward my apartment, turning my narrow escape over in my mind. What was Blair doing there? Who is the man from the university? Obviously a cop, but what's his connection to Blair? And was it just by accident that Blair shone the flashlight into the cop's eyes, or did he know it was me and he was trying to help me escape?
I shake my head. He couldn't know. There's no way. Still…I can't deny I need his help. Even tonight, on the stairs, I'm not sure if it's my remembering his advice that helped me, or the actual fact that he was there that made my headache fade. There's something about him--when he's near, my senses work better. He's my guide; he has to be.
But what about the other sentinel Blair mentioned on his tape, Jim Ellison? What if he thinks Blair's his guide? I grip the steering wheel tightly. If that's the case, then I'll just have to find some way to get rid of him.
The ache I feel when I'm apart from Blair flares to life. "Blair is mine," I whisper, "and no one's going to take him away from me."